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Psychosomatic Medicine:
Original Articles

Specific Effects of Depression, Panic, and Somatic Symptoms on Illness Behavior

Rief, Winfried PhD; Martin, Alexandra PhD; Klaiberg, Antje PhD; Brähler, Elmar PhD

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Abstract

Objective: In terms of restricted financial resources, the contribution of mental disorders to health care use and illness behavior is highly relevant. However, the specific contributions of panic disorder, depression, and somatic complaints to illness behavior in unselected samples is unclear.

Methods: A representative sample of 2507 inhabitants of Germany was selected and grouped into people with panic disorder (30), somatic syndrome (102), major depression (24), depressive syndrome (77), and controls (2269). Assessment instruments were the complete version of the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ), the Scale for the Assessment of Illness Behavior (SAIB) as well as measures of health care use.

Results: Although all clinical groups showed increased illness behavior, their impact was independent and specific. Subjects fulfilling the criteria of panic disorder showed the highest scores for illness behavior and health care use. People with mental disorders showed a greater increase in visits to general practitioners and medical specialists than to psychiatrists or psychologists. Regression analysis revealed that somatic complaints and depression have independent associations with illness behavior and health care use.

Conclusions: Different mental and psychosomatic disorders contribute independently to health care use and other aspects of illness behavior.

PHQ = Patient Health Questionnaire; SAIB = scale for the assessment of illness behavior; GP = general practitioner.

Copyright © 2005 by American Psychosomatic Society

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